Senate Invokes Cloture on Unemployment Insurance — Again

House passage still appears unlikely, despite efforts from Senate Republicans.

The U.S. Captiol dome is seen before work begins on a two-year, $60 million rnovation of March 19, 2014 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
April 3, 2014, 11:28 a.m.

The Sen­ate once again agreed to clo­ture on a five-month ex­ten­sion of un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance be­ne­fits Thursday, but this time with even few­er Re­pub­lic­an votes than be­fore. Sixty-one sen­at­ors, in­clud­ing six Re­pub­lic­ans, voted for the clo­ture agree­ment, com­pared with last week’s vote when 10 Re­pub­lic­ans joined the Demo­crat­ic ma­jor­ity to move the bill along.

Sens. Dan Coats, R-Ind., Bob Cork­er, R-Tenn., Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Ron John­son, R-Wis., voted no on clo­ture Thursday after vot­ing in fa­vor of clo­ture last week.

The clo­ture agree­ment sets up a vote on fi­nal pas­sage for Monday, when Demo­crats will only need sup­port from 51 of their own mem­bers to pass the meas­ure. But the drop in the num­ber of Re­pub­lic­ans vot­ing for clo­ture does not bode well for the bill’s fu­ture.

Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans alike have sug­ges­ted that the high­er the over­all vote total from Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans, the more likely it is that Speak­er John Boehner will take up the ex­ten­sion in the House. Boehner has re­peatedly in­sisted that the Sen­ate un­em­ploy­ment bill does not meet his re­quire­ments, in­clud­ing that it must con­tain a job-cre­ation pro­vi­sion, for House con­sid­er­a­tion.

Few­er Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans joined the clo­ture vote on Thursday in large part be­cause of the way the amend­ment pro­cess was handled by the Demo­crat­ic ma­jor­ity.

Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans tried Wed­nes­day and Thursday to at­tach a num­ber of en­ergy and jobs-re­lated amend­ments to the un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance ex­ten­sion bill that could have met Boehner’s threshold, but were shot down by Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id.

The main fo­cus for Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans was a pro­posed amend­ment from Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., which would ac­com­plish a num­ber of long-time GOP goals that have strong op­pos­i­tion in the Demo­crat­ic ma­jor­ity. The amend­ment’s pro­vi­sions, a con­glom­er­ate of pro­pos­als from a vari­ety of Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­ors, read like a con­ser­vat­ive Christ­mas list: They would au­thor­ize the Key­stone XL pipeline, re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act, block new emis­sions reg­u­la­tions from the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency, in­clude the Skills Act re­forms of fed­er­al-work­force train­ing pro­grams (which has already passed the House), and pro­hib­it a car­bon tax, among oth­er things.

However, as with so many oth­er bills to hit the Sen­ate floor over the past sev­er­al months, the bill pro­ceeded with only Demo­crat­ic amend­ments.

Demo­crats ar­gue that the bill is a job cre­at­or in and of it­self, cit­ing a re­port from the Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice not­ing that a year-long ex­ten­sion of un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance would cre­ate 200,000 jobs by the end of 2014. The cur­rent meas­ure, however, ex­tends be­ne­fits for five months only and be­cause the le­gis­la­tion is ret­ro­act­ive, it would ex­pire in May.

Re­pub­lic­ans dis­miss the CBO es­tim­ate, des­pite their wide use of a sep­ar­ate CBO re­port to dis­cred­it Demo­crat­ic ef­forts to raise the min­im­um wage. CBO es­tim­ated earli­er this year that a $10.10 min­im­um wage would cost the coun­try 500,000 jobs by 2016.

“The CBO can only score what’s put in front of them. And at a cer­tain point, com­mon sense has to be part of the equa­tion. It is com­mon sense that if you raise the cost of em­ploy­ment, you will get less em­ploy­ment,” a House Re­pub­lic­an aide said, re­fer­ring to the Demo­crat­ic ef­forts to raise the min­im­um wage. “It is also com­mon sense that you can’t cre­ate jobs by giv­ing people money not to work.”

Re­gard­less, the un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance bill is ex­pec­ted to pass the Sen­ate on Monday. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who helped to form the fi­nal le­gis­la­tion, said Thursday that his col­leagues had a num­ber of reas­ons for vot­ing against clo­ture and that he is hope­ful more will sign on with the bill Monday even­ing to give it mo­mentum as it heads to the lower cham­ber. “I think in the fi­nal vote, you’ll see that vote come back up,” he said.

Heller said he has already be­gun dis­cuss­ing the is­sue with House Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship. An aide to House Ma­jor­ity Whip Kev­in Mc­Carthy con­firmed that Heller called to dis­cuss un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance, but said that the con­ver­sa­tion was very gen­er­al.

Heller said this week that he was fo­cused largely on passing the meas­ure through the Sen­ate, and would be­gin his con­ver­sa­tions with House Re­pub­lic­ans in earn­est after the bill has cleared the Sen­ate. Asked wheth­er House Re­pub­lic­ans had in­dic­ated an open­ness to tak­ing up the bill, Heller re­spon­ded: “The rhet­or­ic wouldn’t say so, you know, today.”

But, Heller said, he ex­pects to get a fair hear­ing. “I an­ti­cip­ate that they’ll listen to me,” Heller said. “I have a good work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the speak­er, a good work­ing re­la­tion­ship with lead­er­ship on their side, so I’ll have some con­ver­sa­tions with them. So I’ll find out how eager they are.”

Boehner spokes­man Mi­chael Steel agreed that Heller, who served in the House for just over four years be­fore be­ing ap­poin­ted to former Sen. John En­sign’s seat, main­tains a pos­it­ive re­la­tion­ship with lead­er­ship. “He was a well-liked House Mem­ber,” Steel said in an email.

Heller plans to speak with Boehner next week about the ex­ten­sion, dis­miss­ing the speak­er’s claims that the Sen­ate le­gis­la­tion is “un­work­able.” “‘Un­work­able,’ I think is ques­tion­able. “¦ I think it’s work­able. The Labor Sec­ret­ary says its work­able, Nevada says its work­able. If some states can do it, then all states can do it. So, any­way that’ll be the top­ic of con­ver­sa­tion,” Heller said.

Heller also noted that the bill already has the sup­port of his home state’s del­eg­a­tion in the House, not­ing that Nevada has one of the highest un­em­ploy­ment rate’s in the coun­try.

He ad­ded the Sen. Rob Port­man’s sup­port could help to bring Boehner on board as well. “I do need to know what mo­tiv­ates him,” Heller said of Boehner. “I think with Port­man’s sup­port on the le­gis­la­tion, [makes me feel] in my opin­ion that it’s good for Ohio. And the speak­er be­ing from Ohio, maybe that sends a mes­sage.”

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., who co-sponsored the Sen­ate bill said he too will urge House Re­pub­lic­ans to take up the bill as quickly as pos­sible, not­ing that with just a five-month ex­ten­sion “there is a very short win­dow” for pas­sage, per­haps as little as a few weeks.

Reed dis­missed con­cerns that the House would need to take nearly as long with the bill as the Sen­ate did (the Sen­ate began work on the le­gis­la­tion in early Janu­ary). “My re­col­lec­tion of the House [is] they can move very quickly. We are a much more de­lib­er­at­ive body. And we demon­strated great de­lib­er­ate­ness in this pro­cess,” Reed joked.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.

Source:
×